Yup, I was all poshed up again yesterday. This time to deacon at a friend’s ordination, who was being priested in his own parish church (as opposed to the cathedral, which is where most people get ‘done’).
The reason for this is my friend, David, and his vicar are under ‘alternative oversight’. This was what our Church of England dreamed up, a few years ago, for those priests who cannot accept either women priests or (even worse) women bishops. This means that they won’t accept ordination from a bishop who ordains women as priests . So they have alternative oversight or, as we call them, ‘flying bishops.’ These are bishops who are unsullied by ordaining women, and so can pass on the blessing of the original apostles in a ‘pure’ form. They ‘fly’ around the country, visiting all the churches who need this sort of bishop.
As you can imagine, there are very strong feelings on both sides about this, which occasionally erupt into something significant. But even though I don’t agree with them, I understand where they are coming from. And I happen to think that it’s rather grown-up of the C of E to say ‘let’s have both alternatives in our church, and let’s be kind to each other.’
‘Flying Bishop’ Jonathan Goodall was great; warm, friendly and deeply spiritual.
After all, we’re never going to agree on everything. Either some of us storm off in a rage, and set up something alternative only with people who agree with us: or we accept that we won’t agree, work out the practical details and learn to love each other anyway.
You might think that these no-women guys will be prickly and difficult. I’m sure they can be. But here’s the thing. Whenever I go to one of their churches, I always get a huge welcome. There was kindness all round yesterday, even though – more probably because – I was the only female in a sanctuary full of males (25 of them and one of me). And people afterwards asking if I would please come again.
All because I am a deacon, and not a priest: which means I am able to cross boundaries that other people cannot. This is giving me much food for thought.